FAQ: What are my responsibilities as a peer reviewer?

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Go to the profile of Dr George Booth
Sep 05, 2017
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Answered by Dr George Booth, Senior Lecturer at King's College London.

  • - I feel like my responsibilities as a peer reviewer 00:04
  • are somewhat threefold. 00:07
  • First of all, you're there as a quality control 00:09
  • for the quality of the science that's in the manuscript. 00:12
  • Secondly, it's to make sure that the science 00:17
  • that's in the manuscript is sound. 00:20
  • That proofs are correctly given. 00:22
  • And that any logical flow of reasoning 00:25
  • is held up to scrutiny. 00:32
  • This is the number one key thing of a reviewer 00:35
  • to make sure that that rigour is certainly there. 00:38
  • And the third, I feel it's important to be able to ensure 00:42
  • that the material is presented in a way that 00:45
  • allows it to be understood by the scientific community. 00:50
  • That has it's own aspects as well. 00:54
  • First of all, is the material presented 00:57
  • in a context that's correct? 01:00
  • Have they correctly considered the wider aspects 01:02
  • of the field that could benefit from the research, 01:04
  • the field that perhaps it draws 01:07
  • on as its prior assumptions? 01:11
  • Are they all properly recognised and is it couched 01:15
  • in that correct framework? 01:18
  • But secondly, when it comes down to the technical details 01:20
  • of the manuscript, 01:24
  • are they presented in a way that's understandable? 01:26
  • This is something that as a peer reviewer you can use 01:29
  • your anonymity as a way to maybe ask those questions 01:33
  • that you feel are perhaps a bit silly. 01:37
  • That you didn't fully understand this particular sort of 01:39
  • logical leap or this particular part of the proof, 01:43
  • or this particular claim that they're making. 01:46
  • And this is something that the anonymity can help with 01:49
  • because you're not gonna be afraid then 01:52
  • of maybe asking a silly question that you may not 01:54
  • want to do to their face. 01:57
  • But, this is something that you can do with the anonymity. 01:59
  • And it will then improve the manuscript. 02:02
  • To make sure that as a peer reviewer, 02:05
  • if you didn't understand the particularly the logical leap 02:06
  • that they were making, then this is something 02:09
  • they should be able to go back and improve 02:10
  • maybe the presentation of that claim. 02:14
  • So, what makes a good review? 02:18
  • Well, this somewhat depends upon your perspective. 02:20
  • For an author, I would like a review that improves 02:24
  • the material of the manuscript. 02:27
  • So, anything that can pick out a logical flaw 02:30
  • in what I've said, that would be excellent. 02:36
  • And that sometimes is not always well received, 02:38
  • but is an incredibly important part 02:40
  • of the peer review process. 02:41
  • Further to that, I would like someone to be able 02:44
  • to tell me when my exposition is lacking, 02:47
  • some knowledge that I've assumed that meant 02:51
  • that they had to go back to other material 02:54
  • that is key to the discussion in the manuscript, 02:56
  • how maybe that should be brought back in. 03:00
  • Some more details that can be put in to the manuscript 03:03
  • to improve it as a whole for the audience. 03:06
  • I think that, as a reviewer, is what you can expect 03:09
  • to be a good manuscript. 03:12
  • From the context of the journals, 03:16
  • perhaps it's more about the quality control of it, 03:17
  • whether it's a correct journal for the material to go in, 03:20
  • whether it's well suited for that, 03:24
  • whether the advances in the understanding in the field 03:25
  • are large enough to warrant being in that journal. 03:30
  • And I think that quality control then is an important part. 03:33
  • But I think being able to have a way 03:36
  • to improve the science as well, 03:40
  • is something that reviewers should really strive 03:42
  • for as well. 03:45
  • And I think it's maybe unlikely, 03:46
  • although it does happen, 03:49
  • to be able to, through the peer review process, 03:50
  • communicate with the authors to actually improve 03:54
  • the science that's going on, 03:56
  • but that's certainly an aim. 03:58
  • More likely what you're going to be able to do 04:01
  • is improve the exposition, how it's presented, 04:04
  • and how it's framed within the context of the field 04:08
  • as a reviewer. 04:10
Go to the profile of Dr George Booth

Dr George Booth

Royal Society University Research Fellow, King's College London

Dr George Booth joined King’s College London in October 2014 as a Royal Society university research fellow and proleptic lecturer. He has an Msci in Physics from the University of Nottingham and a PhD in Theoretical Chemistry from the University of Cambridge. He worked as a postdoctoral research associate at both the University of Cambridge and Princeton University, USA. He also held posts as a junior research fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge from 2010-2015 and as a fixed term lecturer at the University of Cambridge.

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